A Summer of Hiking

This summer, we've spent so many free weekends hiking that I haven't been able to keep up with my photos. Here are some highlights from three summer hikes, all offering completely different views, experiences, and geographies.

Starvation Creek

The first photo set is from a hike we did in May when our friends Catherine and Charlie were visiting from Baltimore. Starvation Creek/Starvation Loop is located right of I-84, shortly after familiar hikes like Oneonta Gorge and Horsetail Falls. The huge parking area partially exists for hikers of this 3 mile hike and also because one can extend this hike into something much more challenging: Mt Defiance, the tallest vista in the Gorge at 4,960 feet.

Starvation Creek may be a relatively short hike, but be aware: you gain an enormous amount of elevation in the first three quarters of a mile (1,280 feet). Justin and I had hiked Dog Mountain the weekend before and still found ourselves gasping after a few steep uphills. After the continued incline ends with stellar views of the Gorge, the hike takes you back into the woods for a few waterfalls.

Saddle Mountain

If we had delayed our hike by 15 minutes or taken an extra 10 minutes at the summit, my recap of Saddle Mountain would have been much more thrilling: on the day we hiked, a small wildfire burned nearby, eventually trapping 17 hikers (most of whom we saw on our descent) for several hours. Missed excitement (or annoyance) aside, Saddle Mountain is nearly 50% exposed and we picked an exceptionally hot day to hike it.

Saddle Mountain is located near the Oregon Coast, a perfect hike to really get your heartrate going, knowing that you can cool off at the coast as soon as you're done (which is exactly what we did). Hikers gain 1600 feet in the roundtrip 5 mile hike, ultimately reaching a viewpoint where, on a clear day, you can see the Pacific Ocean and Mt Hood. We could kind of glimpse both, but a marine layer had started to roll in when we finally found ourselves at the top. I'd have more photos to share of this hike, but alas, the battery died on my Fuji as soon as I started taking photos of the views.

Harry's Ridge

Driving around Portland on a clear day, I frequently catch glimpses of Mt St Helens out of my car window. I'm always excited to see the flattened mountain in the distance. As you probably recall, Mt St Helens erupted in 1980, blanketing the entire area in ash, rubble, and lava (230 square miles), killing 57 people, and destroying an entire ecosystem. This was our first time out to the Mt St Helen's area and the surrounding geography is stunning in its variety of regrowth and damage. On the drive towards the mountain, you pass acres and acres of trees with signs indicating that they were replanted in 1983. Because those trees were planted at the same time, they have a uniformity to them that reminded me of a hologram (or something out of the Matrix).

Mt St Helens looms above a pocked and desolate landscape; the surrounding area could easily be used as a set for a movie about extraterrestrial life. We hiked Harry's Ridge, a hike named after Harry Truman (not the president), the owner of a popular resort next to Spirit Lake (after the eruption, this lake's volume decreased by approximately 46,000 acre-feet and the lodge itself was buried under 150 feet of debris). When Mt St Helen's erupted, Truman stayed in the lodge, ultimately dying with the surrounding vegetation.

The ridge hike dips and climbs through rocks, brush, and regrowing trees. We tip-toed over bear droppings full of berries and some of us (me) got incredibly sunburned despite valiant efforts with sunblock application. If I had formerly considered the previous weekend's Saddle Mountain hike as exposed, I reframed that assumption shortly into this hike: Harry's Ridge has zero shade. After we hiked to the vista point overlooking Spirit Lake, we turned around and hiked further into the vicinity along the Coldwater Peak trail, eventually viewing St Helen’s lake (notice how the damaged logs lay in an appealing geometric pattern, all clustered to one side) and finding a really amazing rock arch. All and all we extended this 8 mile hike into 12 miles.